Sunday, March 02, 2008

Journaling before meeting: Lost, evil, faith, and G*d (Peter)

Cat’s been watching the third season of Lost. I pop in once in a while to watch an episode or a scene, but it pisses me off too much to enjoy. Season one had that wonderful sense of mystery and awe, season two was about starting to solve the mystery, and it was only OK, but in season three there is very little going on except psychological torture. The things we don’t understand aren’t mystery; they’re dysfunction. I find myself thinking, if I were there, the only sensible course of action would be to grab a weapon and take out as many of “the others” as I could before they killed me. And I don’t enjoy feeling that way, so I’m not watching the show.

Cat has a very different reaction to the situations in the show. Since none of the characters understand what’s really going on or why, she’d follow the principle of, “When in doubt, do the right thing.” Violence in immediate self-defense is acceptable, but violence directed at an enemy you don’t understand won’t work because we’re not smart enough—none of us are ever smart enough—to manipulate political situations through violence.

And this gets back to the very real issue for me of trying desperately to save the world (my instinct) vs. living at peace, living a life centered on G*d, while still living in a world that is at war.

And what does that even mean?

There’s a Quaker way to do this that is different from the Pagan way of doing it, and I’m realizing I still haven’t found the Quaker answer.
Follow the leadings of the Light, Cat says. She can feel the presence of God, like the roar and vibration of a river swollen with spring melt when you stand on a bridge and lay your hands on the railing. Cool. But I don’t share that experience.

The palpable presence of G*d, I remember most clearly from when I was first developing my relationship with Herne. I remember the way it felt sometimes like He was standing just behind me, resting His hands on my shoulders, strong and loving, challenging and encouraging.

Where is the presence of G*d for me now? I get flashes of it in meeting, once in a while. Speaking in meeting can still feel like drawing down, though I can go a year or more without feeling moved to speak. When a meeting as a whole begins to center down and gather, I can feel the presence—sometimes—almost like static electricity. I get it most strongly when a meeting is experiencing conflict and gathering to labor together. But that’s like, as a relatively new Pagan, when I needed a huge bonfire and a hundred or more other Pagans chanting and drumming and dancing before I could feel the energy. My Wiccan teacher taught me to work with birthday candles in a salt circle, to extinguish the lantern and learn to see by starlight.

Cat talks about a sort of faith in G*d. She doesn’t use the work “faith,” but she talks about how important it is that when we call on G*d and reach out for G*d, there’s something there to hear us, that G*d is more than just an archetype. And when she says that, I realize that’s a kind of faith I don’t have.

I have experiences of the Gods and of the Light. Experimentum solum certificat in talibus. I don’t have a theology. I actively reject theology. I use metaphors, always flagging them as such, and I carefully frame my experiences in psychological language rather than mystical. I'm always saying how it's hubris for any mortal still on this Earth to think we can contain the Divine in human words. And I don’t want to come across as a religious wacko. More—I don’t want to revert to being a religious wacko, having once been one. (Past experiences with a Southern Baptist commune continue to warp my religious life, rather the way American military thinking keeps wanting to treat extremist terrorist cells as if they were the Third Reich.)

Am I really a Quaker? Does the Society of Friends bring me closer to G*d? Do I believe in G*d? Does it matter if I believe in G*d? Am I supposed to believe in G*D? How much of “belief” is in the head, abstract and notional, and how much is in the heart and the belly and wired into the neural circuits that control our reflexes?

Did I just say, “wired into the neural circuits”? I’m overwriting, which means I’m overthinking.

Fuck. Journaling before meeting is supposed to help me center down, not get me all full of words and ideas.

Help me, G*d, to find You again. I miss You. Come back.


Walhydra said...

Brother Peter,

I'm coming at this mystery, this challenge, from different angles, but I resonate with both your longing and your wariness. It all feels very familiar to me.

"Help me, G*d, to find You again. I miss You. Come back."

I'll share more soon. I'm trying to finish the "Am I a nontheist...?" series on The Empty Path (Spoiler: I'm not)>

That might free up brain space...though series itself is motivated by the same sorts of questions you are asking.

Blessèd Be,
Michael Bright Crow

- sm said...

Dear Peter,

A few thoughts I wanted to share...

"I remember the way it felt sometimes like He was standing just behind me, resting His hands on my shoulders, strong and loving, challenging and encouraging."

Can you imagine Herne standing behind you so in Meeting for Worship?

"I'm always saying how it's hubris for any mortal still on this Earth to think we can contain the Divine in human words."

I agree with you: we can't. But we can -- I'd say, we are somehow compelled -- to try to reflect some facet of Divine Truth through our by-definition limited language. (Language is more limited than human understanding; and human understanding cannot encompass the entirety of the Mystery we call the Divine.)

*sigh* My past religious experiences continue to warp me, too. Being aware that they do is a good step towards not backsliding, though. :)

"Am I really a Quaker?"

What does it mean to you to be "really a Quaker"? You might think I'm being flippant, but I'm not. One thing my experiences -- especially this last year and a half, but honestly, the entire eleven years I've been active in the RSoF -- have taught me is that in order to live consistently with the testimony of integrity, or in right relation, or in the kind of integrity Witchcraft demands, in harmony, whatever words work, in order to live so, I have to know *for myself* what it means for Stasa to be really a Quaker. I don't know if this helps or not, but I hope so.

And you don't need to be a theist in order to be a Friend. So another part of the question might be, What do you need, in order to be spiritually faithful, that you get from being a Friend?

Another question -- perhaps the central one you're alluding to -- might be, How do I experience the Divine? What is the Divine for me?

As a Witch and a Friend, for me, it's not about belief; it's about experience. Oh, yes, there are times when that experience is not sufficient to keep me feeling like the Goddess is right here with me. I can pick up rocks, listen to the birds, and just not be feeling it. So perhaps that's where what you call faith comes in -- for me, it's faith that my experience in the past has been true, and that even if my needs and my truth change, integrity and the truth of my experience will bring me back to center.

May that direct experience of G*d find you again soon. I know it's a lonely place out there without that.

In Friendship,
Blessed be,

p.s. Whew! Sorry, long comment!

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